God only admits sinners into heaven.
Think before you answer – it’s a loaded question. In some ways, it is similar to the question: Have you quit beating your wife? Whatever your answer, clarifying information must be added. (You can deal with the second question on your own.)
My interest is in the first. Does God only admit sinners into heaven? If you answer false, your reasoning might be that God is himself holy and wholly adverse to sin. Sin is odious and offensive to him – he cannot and will not tolerate it. The Bible abounds with passages asserting the holiness of God. He is holy, holy, holy! (Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4)
Exodus 34 contains what I call a “self portrait of God.” Verses 6 and 7 record the very words which God uses to describe himself: “…, The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6–7, ESV)
God heaps up every known Hebrew word to describe his mercy and compassion towards wrongdoers (sinners), and yet he insists that guilt (iniquity) must be punished. The Bible frequently asserts God’s holiness and holds it in tension with the rebellion and culpability of people.
Before going further, here is a brief biblical understanding of sin. There are, of course, many definitions but 1 John provides two accurate and concise descriptions. 1 John 3.4 (… sin is lawlessness) and 5.17 (… All wrongdoing is sin). So, basically, sin is violating God’s commands and instructions.
Jesus pointed out that sin is more than overt actions, but he is also an internal infection. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20–23, ESV). Additionally, in his “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5–7), Jesus taught us that rebellious thoughts and motives are also sin. We sin in thought, word, and deed.
Now, back to our original issue. (God only admits sinners into heaven.) God (morally pure), and sin are incompatible. All people sin, and thus are sinners, alienated from God. God cannot admit sin or sinners into his presence. So, the statement “God only admits sinners into heaven” is false.
But wait! This conclusion does not consider all the evidence. It is a selective summary, which ignores vital information. For instance, the passage cited above (Exodus 34.6–7), overwhelmingly reveals that the LORD God is compassionate and forgiving. Again, the Bible overflows with information highlighting the forgiveness of God.
This dilemma of how a holy God can accept sinners is resolved by Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explains: “… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19–21, ESV)
Following explicit statements asserting the divine nature of Jesus, the Nicene Creed, written in 325 A.D., summarizes the teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s humanity and mission:
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
Reconciliation with God results from the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sin and rebellion in order that we might have peace with God – more than that, that God might be at peace with us. Jesus redeemed sinners through his voluntary and substitutionary suffering, death and resurrection. This forgiveness and peace is offered to sinners in the gospel and received by sinners when they repent and believe in Christ. Repentance involves the owning or acknowledging of our guilt and rebellion and then turning away from it and to Christ. Believing in Christ means relying only on him and his actions on our behalf to receive acceptance by God.
Back to our issue, God only admits sinners into heaven. Absolutely true! But with one caveat. They must be redeemed sinners. God only admits redeemed sinners into heaven!
Christians are redeemed sinners who have been reconciled to God, repented and are resting Christ alone for redemption. Scripture states: But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 12–13, ESV)
So, here’s good news: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
But before you believe the good news, you must acknowledge the bad news. You are a sinner and must be saved by Christ.
God only admits redeemed sinners into heaven!